My father’s favorite Christmas song, which has now become mine, was ‘White Christmas’. He especially liked the rendition done by the late Bing Crosby, whose crooning vocals made this melody a favorite for many people. Written by Irving Berlin in 1940 while sitting next to a pool in Phoenix, Arizona, ‘White Christmas’ won the Academy Award for Best Original Song when it was introduced in 1942 when it was sung by Bing Crosby during the motion picture musical Holiday Inn. My father would often tell me that it was the most beautiful Christmas song he had ever heard.
My father was the type of person who really liked Christmas, more from the spiritual side than the gift giving. As children, we would always get one gift and one Christmas stocking, of which it was my father’s job to fill with one apple, one orange, one tangerine, and an assortment of hard Christmas. We sometimes would also find a couple quarters in the toe of the stocking. We were poor, but my father always gave to charities at this time of year. He told me that no matter how poor we were, there was always someone poorer.
My father was diagnosed with colon cancer in the summer of 1991. He suffered through months of chemo treatments and then, being told there was nothing left that could be done, waited. In December of 1992, my mother and brother rushed him to the hospital with an apparent stroke. He lost his ability to speak, and often became frustrated and agitated at not being able to make us understand what he was trying to convey to us.
Several days before my father was admitted to the hospital a woman I worked with gave me a very small Christmas box, that when you removed the lid it played the tune ‘White Christmas’. Knowing my father loved the song, I brought it to his hospital room and when dad would become agitated (which was often), I would remove the lid and let him listen to the twinkling sound that came from it. It seemed to sooth my father somewhat as he would stop thrashing about and become quiet. Of course it drove everyone else from the room with tears in their eyes, because we all knew dad did not have long to live. My one sister, too moved by emotion, said she would never be able to remove the lid from the box. My father died a week after he entered the hospital, just two weeks before Christmas. He did not suffer much with his cancer, which was spreading through his body, and knowing-friends told me he was lucky to have been spared the excruciating pain caused by this dreadful disease.
Although this story may not be a happy one, it is a memorable one for me, because a simple Christmas song brought my father joy in life and comfort near his end. I still have the Christmas box tucked away in a safe place. I bring it out every Christmas and although it does not play a tune any more, it brings back the memory of my father and his love of the song a ‘White Christmas’.